Talk by Dan Graham, Dartmouth College. Given to the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at UC Berkeley on Nov. 18, 2009.
Despite great advances in our understanding of neural responses to natural stimuli, the basic structure of the neural code remains elusive. In this talk, I will describe a novel hypothesis regarding the fundamental structure of neural coding in mammals. In particular, I propose that an internet-like routing architecture (specifically packet-switching) underlies neocortical processing, and I propose means of testing this hypothesis via neural response sparseness measurements. I will synthesize a host of suggestive evidence that supports this notion and will, more generally, argue in favor of a large scale shift from the now dominant “computer metaphor,” to the “internet metaphor.” This shift is intended to spur new thinking with regard to neural coding, and its main contribution is to privilege communication over computation as the prime goal of neural systems.